The Last Day at the Table, A Collegeville Reflection (because one post about it just wasn’t enough)

What I know for sure is this: we come from mystery, and we return to mystery.” – Parker Palmer, On the Brink of Everything p. 16

I sit here in a place I love, a place that only nine days ago was foreign to me. I look out the window here, feeling like I am strangely at home at the Collegeville Institute in Minnesota. The window looks out over moving water with branches above. This little nook can, if the light reflects just right, feel like an intimate light show with patterns dancing on the water’s surface.

Compared to the liveliness of this little space just two days ago, the water is darker, a reflection of me. I am sad to leave. I tried to drive off this morning once but turned back.

My time here has been personal, spiritual, and professional all at once, like these branches of me got to come together and have a party. Coming to the institute, I was spun up, wanting to somehow unify all these sides of me. Writer, teacher mom, church, college, school, home. Where is the through-line? I’ve often wondered. Where is the me-est me? How do I find her?

Collegeville, ironically, encouraged me to lean into the “sides” of me, to see them more like facets on a gem, rather than divergent wanderings from the path. To embrace the different parts, I was told, is to truly embrace the whole.

I am a teacher.

I am an academic. I am a scoliosis kid.

I am a writer.

I am a mother.

I am a wife.

I am a spiritual seeker.

I’m a little bit weird Evi Jane.

When, instead of trying to put all of these things into one bucket, I lean into them, writing pieces as teacher me, as goofy me, as seeker me, they start to sing in a way they haven’t before. The words come fast, and I try to keep up.

It’s a lesson I’ll treasure forever from my time here. So as I sit here by the tree window at my last day at the table, I’m slowing, my steps and also my spirit. What a grace it’s been to feel at home for a week in Minnesota among thinky, kind, whip-smart, funny writers. This week has dared me to say, “What if all of this is me? What if all of this is home? What if God is busy at work in all of it creating, making space, and asking us to dance?” A friend I met at the institute quotes John Coltrane in his (my writer friend’s) book about music. “It all has to do with it,” Coltrane says, speaking of the higher power bubbling up in and through everything. This week I’ve been in “it,” if that makes sense. Speeding up even as I slow down, knowing that this, even this facet of the life we get to play in is pure gift.

I’m thankful for Collegeville, for my coach, Michael McGregor, thankful for my mom and Ralph for taking good care of my kiddos, and thankful I just said “Why not?” and submitted my application to Colegeville one more time. Just a year ago I posted on Facebook how I had been denied again on my Collegeville application. “I’m hungry for some Writing and Community in 2021,” I posted. I guess we make our plans and the timing, well that’s another thing. And yet, the timing has worked out poetic, as I know this summer, this one was when I was ready for the intensity, for the high-standard, and for the challenge that has been Collegeville. Cheers to that.

“When we see a Cezanne, we feel what he saw in the landscape, and that opens up the possibility of his sensitivity to the world being awakened in us.” – Michael McGregor, Pure Act

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